If Austin was a car, it’d be a VW campervan. The capital of the Lone Star State, Austin has seen its popularity (and population) soar in recent years: between 2000 and 2006, it was the third fastest growing city in the United States. Austin is cultured, kitsch and kooky, and rightfully wears its unofficial slogan (‘Keeping Austin Weird’) with great pride.
Sleek glass towers stretch towards the sky and line the lakes around Austin’s heart. If you like blues and barbecues, you’ll fit right in. The state capital also hosts the largest music festival in the country, South by Southwest, which has lured the likes of the Fratellis, Bloc Party and Van Morrison. Rock on.
The Texan capital is the global centre of live music. Head to East 6th Street and catch a local band at the Parish, a mellow venue with more than a dollop of style. Try to be in Austin in spring for South by Southwest, which has delighted musos’ ears for the last 20 years.
Tickets are released 10 months in advance, but visitors can enjoy the festival for free, thanks to National Public Radio (NPR), which hosts free events and unofficial festival parties. Buy up Westernise your wardrobe with a trip to Allens Boots at 1522 South Congress Avenue, for cowboy boots, plaid shirts and all things west of normal.
Just a few doors down, Uncommon Objects stocks exactly that, with its selection of antler horns, tribal masks and retro bric-à-brac. In East Austin, browse arty tomes and admire exhibitions at Domy Books, at 913 East Cesar Chavez.
You’d be missing out if you walked on by the gleaming Airstream trailers and didn’t sample their southern-style treats. Hey Cupcake!, at 1511 Block, South Congress Avenue, is our pick of the bunch. If you’re after something savoury, try Torchy’s Tacos at 2809 South 1st Street.
Savour a southern Italian meal at Vespaio, where local ingredients are nurtured and flour is kneaded by expert hands. Sam, the owner, is a walking encyclopaedia on Austin; he’ll tell you what’s hot, what’s not and some secrets by candlelight, if you’re really lucky. Find Sam and Vespaio at 1610 South Congress Avenue.
Hipsters, though they’ll never admit it, stick to the East Side, yuppies go for after-work drinks in Rainey Street and financially bereft students opt for gritty 6th Street. You could straddle the line and go to all, but we like La Condesa at 400a, West 2nd Street.
By Jove, the clever bar staff can make a mean cocktail: El Cubico is our tipple of choice – the tequila is infused with tobacco and the glass is pockmarked with volcanic salt. A steal; even more so during happy hour.
Hotel Saint Cecilia is aptly named after the patron saint of music.
Stylish studios and boho bungalows are sure to bring out your rebellious side. Artistic types will note influences from Warhol, Miró and the Stones. For dress code, think Johnny Depp in the Nines.
We recommend opting for a room with a Chesterfield – who wouldn’t?
You’ll find Hotel Saint Cecilia at 112 Academy Drive. Alternatively, try Hotel San José (Cecilia’s sister) at 1316 South Congress Avenue. A masterclass in stylish understatement, it’s a magnet for musos and arty types; skinny jean-clad hipsters and Alice Cooper-wannabes flit around the corridors. Need further persuasion?
To book, call the Mr and Mrs Smith expert Travel Team on 1300 896 627, or see the rest of the online Smith hotel collection.